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Santa Fe’s off-season for tourism is harder to define than its on-season. But you know it when you see it, and it generally goes with the actual seasons.
Periods of low tourism in the city usually hit for six months in the winter and spring. For example, the lowest occupancy rates in 2012 were between November and April — though there were exceptions during spring break (a period of about three weeks in March) and around the Christmas holiday. But summer and fall, from May through October, traditionally draw far more visitors and revenue.
Now, nonprofits that believe they can attract visitors during the slow times through special events are eligible to apply for up to $70,000 in adverting cash from the Santa Fe Convention and Visitors Bureau, with certain restrictions.
City statistics on hotel occupancy rates show there were 20 weeks in 2012 when fewer than half of the lodging beds in Santa Fe were filled. Those are the weeks city officials are targeting with an effort to increase tourism through such special events.
The new round of grant funding, raised through the city lodgers tax, must be used to pay for marketing in areas outside a 50-mile radius of Santa Fe.
The reason for that restriction, according to grant application materials, is to increase the likelihood that people drawn to the event by the marketing efforts will spend at least one night in the city.
The grant is being offered after approval of a 2012 City Council resolution directing staff to “energize Santa Fe tourism” by establishing events for “a new generation of traveler” — those between the ages of 35 and 56. Previous city studies found that the average visitor to Santa Fe is 57 years old.
Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Jim Luttjohann said Friday that he’s hopeful the city will award several grants for a variety of events, which might include outdoor sporting opportunities or music. There’s also an option for multi-year grants, with support to help build annual attractions.
“We are not going to just fund you once and leave you in the wind the next year,” he said. However, organizations applying for the marketing funds must write a plan for how they’ll come up with additional money to pay for their events if they don’t already have cash in the bank.
An application form is now available online at www.santafe.org, under the link for OTAB Form. Members of the city’s Occupancy Tax Advisory Board will review the applications and award funding. The deadline for submission of proposals is April 23. ___